Reuters reported recently that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was offering three kilograms of gold for the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa, Gerald Feierstein. The group also offers to pay about $23,350 to anyone who kills an American soldier in Yemen. The offer, according to reports was good only for six months. The offer reportedly was done to “encourage our Muslim Ummah (nation), and to expand the circle of the jihad (holy war) by the masses,” according to an audio released by militants sourced from the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group (subscription fee).
The bounty offer made it to the State Department’s Daily Press Briefing:
QUESTION: Are you concerned the same incident in Benghazi would happen again in Yemen? As you’ve said, the State Department is now taking the threat to the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen seriously. Are you increasing the security?
MS. NULAND: Well, as you probably know, our mission in Yemen has been operating for quite some time at a highly sensitive and secure level. We continue to work intensively with that government, not only on security challenges for us, but security challenges for the Government of Yemen and the people of Yemen across the country. So we obviously take this situation with utmost seriousness, and we are taking all necessary measures.
QUESTION: But how do you make sure that tragedy won’t happen again?
MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, I’m not going to get into the details of how we manage our security in general terms or in specific terms at our Embassy in Sana’a, but I will tell you that our Embassy has been at emergency staffing levels for quite some time, including a pretty cautious status with regard to internal travel, et cetera.
QUESTION: Is the Ambassador still keeping up his same daily schedule since these events?
MS. NULAND: I don’t think I’m going to get into the security posture of the Ambassador except to say that we take these things very seriously.
Ambassador Feierstein has been the United States Ambassador to Yemen since September 2010. He previously served overseas at: Islamabad, Pakistan (1976–78); Tunis, Tunisia (1983–1985); Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (1985–1987); Peshawar, Pakistan (1989–1992); Muscat, Oman (1995–1998), where he was chargé d’affaires; Jerusalem, Israel (1998–2001), as deputy consul general; and Beirut, Lebanon (2003–2004). He returned to Pakistan in 2008 as Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy Islamabad.
He has two daughters and a son, a United States Marine Corps veteran who served two combat tours in Iraq. This past September, his wife of over 30 years, Mary told a a Philadelphia-area newspaper that her husband was not worried about his safety.
Here is a quick excerpt from mcall.com:
“We’ve become such a strange family,” Mary Feierstein said, speaking from her home outside Washington, D.C. “I’m constantly worried about him, but we don’t worry as much as we used to because there is always something going on.” […] Mary Feierstein, who is Pakistani, met her husband when he was posted at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad in 1976. She was drawn to his charms and intellect, she said. They were married in 1978 and spent what she described as “five wonderful years” in the United States before they left for his second post in Tunis, Tunisia, in 1983.
“I was trying to get away from that part of the world and then he took me back,” she said, laughing. […] “The next posting could be Paris, but he’d say, ‘What am I go to do there? It will be boring’,” she said. “He likes challenge, to make history.” […] After leaving Israel in July 2001, she never joined her husband on another post. He was going to countries where she was no longer allowed to join him because it was too dangerous.
“Since then, the world has been falling apart,” she said. “Up until then it was exciting. I loved it. Things aren’t as great for American diplomats overseas as they used to be.”
It looks like the Feiersteins are now on their third unaccompanied tour where Mrs. Feierstein has been unable to accompany her FSO to his overseas assignment. Two years in Lebanon, two years in Pakistan and now over two years in Yemen. All but one of his predecessors had three year tours, so presumably, he will have a similar length of tour unless he is called back earlier.